• damientfisher

Wisconsin man real author behind Church Militant lawsuit

The real writer behind the alleged defamatory article published by right-wing outlet, Church Militant, has been revealed in court as Marc Balestrieri, a canon lawyer who once tried to get then-presidential candidate John Kerry excommunicated for heresy.

Balestrieri did not respond to requests for comment. He is now a co-defendant along with Church Militant’s Gary Voris — who goes by his stage name Michael Voris in his internet videos — and Anita Carey, one of Church Militant’s staff writers.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Concord, is brought by New Hampshire priest Rev. Georges de Laire, who claims to have suffered harm from the articles which criticize his ethics, competency, and even mental health. de Laire is the Manchester Diocese’s judicial vicar, and a canon lawyer.

“Through articles published on the website Church Militant, as well as videos produced by St. Michael’s Media and published both on the Church Militant website and You Tube and other websites, Defendants have in knowing and reckless disregard of the truth embarked on a campaign of defamation against Father de Laire, intended to besmirch Father de Laire’s reputation and destroy his standing in the community of his congregation in New Hampshire, and in the Catholic Church at large, in the United States and in Rome,” the new complaint states.

Church Militant's Gary Voris

de Laire has been fighting for months to get Balestrieri added as a defendant after learning for the first time early this year that he was the real author behind the article. Voris and his legal team originally put forward that Voris wrote the original defamatory article, published in January of 2019, and they fought to keep Balestrieri ’s identity secret, claiming he was a confidential source.

When that sham was revealed in the discovery process, Judge Joseph Laplante ruled that Balestrieri could be added as a defendant.

"The defendants misrepresented the identity of the author of the January 17 article in their answer and did not correct that misrepresentation even in the face of discovery requests that related to the identity of that person,” Laplante wrote.

According to the lawsuit, Balestrieri made several false statements about de Laire in the article, which Voris and Carey would repeat in subsequent articles and videos.

In the original article, Balestrieri falsely reported that de Laire is “said by current work colleagues to be emotionally unstable in his role as chief canonical judge of the diocese and counselor to his bishop,” and that “de Laire is said to be desperate to repair his image and save his chances at being promoted as bishop or an official of the Roman Curia.”

Balestrieri claimed that de Laire was known to be incompetent and did not do his own work.

“de Laire is nicknamed in those halls [of the Roman Curia] un incasinaro, ‘a troublemaker,’ owing to his notorious botching of canonical cases involving clergy and other matters,” Balestrieri wrote.

Balestrieri also claimed that de Laire was “said by priests and laity who currently work with him in the diocese to be a vindictive and manipulative clericalist who pines to be named a bishop or an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

de Laire has promised to disprove all the allegations contained in Balestrieri’s article, saying that the story is completely fabricated.

Balestrieri works as a canon lawyer, representing people during legal proceedings within the Roman Catholic Church, such as annulments. He currently has a practice in Wisconsin.

Balestrieri gained brief fame when he claimed in the run up to the 2004 presidential election that former Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, had been excommunicated for his views on abortion. Balestrieri had brought a lawsuit to a Church court seeking to have Kerry declared a heretic.

Balestrieri based his claim on a letter written by another canon lawyer, Rev. Basil Cole, according to the New York Times.

Balestrieri’s claims that Kerry was excommunicated were soon disputed by Church officials. Rev. Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters at the time that Cole’s letter was a private correspondence and not a formal announcement of Kerry’s supposed excommunication.

‘Mr. Balestrieri's ‘claim that the private letter he received from Father Basil Cole is a Vatican response is completely without merit,’” Di Noia said.

Di Noia told Reuters at the time that he believed Balestrieri asked an academic question about politicians who support abortion and excommunication. Di Noia thought Balestrieri was a student, and asked Cole to write a letter explaining Church teaching on the matter. Balestrieri then presented that letter to the press as proof Kerry had been excommunicated.

“I thought I was advising a student who was working on a project. I referred him to a reliable theologian on the matter. I was acting in my capacity as a theologian trying to be helpful to a young person,'' Di Noia told Reuters. “I had no idea his aim was actually to build a heresy case against John Kerry or against anyone else. I feel that we have been instrumentalized.”

Voris started attacking de Laire’s after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester disciplined the fringe-group, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which operates the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond. The Slaves leader is a man named Louis “Brother Andre” Villarrubia.

The renegade group is the subject of diocesan and Vatican discipline because their views on salvation, and years of alleged anti-Semitism. Villarrubia recently shared on social media a debunked account of a saint the perpetuated the blood libel against Jews, accusing Jewish people of using the blood of murdered Christian children to make Passover bread.

The diocese barred the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from calling themselves Catholic in January of 2019 and put the group under discipline.

The Slaves appealed the discipline laid out in a Decree of Precepts of Prohibition written by de Laire, but the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome rejected that appeal because it was filed after the Church’s statute of limitations had run out. It is not immediately known who the Slaves had hired as a canon lawyer to represent them in the appeal.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is the Vatican governing body that defends Catholic teaching from heresy and has previously dealt with the Slaves.

Voris and his Church Militant company started covering the issue after the precepts were published, and the diocese advised Catholics in good standing to stay away from the Slaves. Voris, who is based in Michigan, even traveled to New Hampshire to interview members of the Slaves at their compound in Richmond. Voris did not interview de Laire or any priest in the diocese as part of his reporting, according to the lawsuit.

One of the articles tried to make an issue out of de Laire purchasing a home in Amherst valued at more than $1 million. Voris did not include any context such as the fact de Laire comes from a wealthy French family, and he purchased the home with his own money for his elderly mother, while he lives in assigned parish housing.

Voris, like the Slaves, has been prohibited from using the name Catholic in his business. Church Militant used to be known as Real Catholic T.V.

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